Recruiters, it's Time to Pick up the Phone

With today’s technological advances, accessing information on candidates and communicating with them is as easy as a few taps on a keyboard. However, with the sheer amount of noise circulating around the online world, this level of engagement is barely sufficient enough to grab anyone’s attention. In this instance, the need for personal contact has never been more essential, according to Amy Tea, Associate Director and Head of Research for Sheffield Search.
[bctt tweet=”Think talent #sourcing is easy with the Internet? Think again says @amyteanz”]
Amy, an upcoming speaker at Sourcing.Social.Talent says that despite technological advances, the old rules of recruitment and real communication should remain the focus. This week we talked to Amy about the differences between in-house and agency work, the value of maintaining a recruitment network, how in a world where growing and nurturing this network takes real engagement and how the telephone is still your best ally.


What made Amy get into recruitment?


So what made me get into recruitment was having been in the in-house side. I was the HR Manager for Fairfax, a media company here. Getting to work with Sheffield and getting to see the recruitment process which was so much more in depth than what I was running in the in-house function and also their organisational development offering. I wanted to work with best practice tools and work with other people who had this as their core business and so I jumped ship to consulting, thinking I’d do it for a couple of years, and I’m still here.

The biggest difference between internal and agency recruitment

The biggest difference is that your core business here is being really good at HR, so we do recruitment, we do executive search, and we do a lot of organisational development training and coaching work. So being with people all day whose passion and profession are the same of yours was amazing. The conversations that you have, the interesting work you get to do was significantly different. The work that we get to do, working on really big senior executive assignments, getting to work on board assignments, working on organisational restructures, everyday is fascinating. It’s always interesting, there’s no business as usual.

What Amy has seen change in the Market in New Zealand

What I’ve seen change in New Zealand has been a number of things. The rise of the internal recruitment centre has really fascinated me, and for us we’ve really noticed this post GFC (global financial crisis). So organisations are now setting up internal recruitment centres which are quite sophisticated, particularly around employment branding, and often even around sourcing, where even though they are under a lot of workload pressure, they do sourcing to an extent that they couldn’t have done five years ago. Now, the wealth of information online means an internal recruiter can deliver a pretty high level of service for his or her internal clients. So we’ve even lost a couple of our best recruiters to internal teams, while pre-GFC that would never happen.

The challenges

In some sense it’s the change. I remember when I first started, talking to a colleague who had been doing this for what must have been 30 years in recruitment, and I said “what’s it like when the market is different, and you don’t have this massive candidate shortage?” That was in the days where we had very low unemployment, and he laughed and said it actually doesn’t change because the very best people, the people we’re trying to find for our clients and hire, the cream of the crop, and they’re hard to find and hard to attract no matter what the market is doing.
To that extent, finding really great people and attracting them has changed. What I think I’ve seen though is, finding the best people is always the challenge, engaging them and getting them onboard. The other challenge is always getting organisations or getting hiring managers to really understand their role in the hiring process. Getting them to understand what they need to do to get the best hire, and make sure they’re not just getting someone to sign a contract, they turn up at their desk and off they go – actually making sure that managers are in a position to really coach and develop those people through so they get the best out of them.
You have to meet people where they are. So there are some hiring managers who are really experienced, and do this really well. The easy thing to do is just to ask a couple of questions and it’s pretty clear. Other hiring managers, when you start to talk about what they do in terms of training and induction, how they plan to address any development areas they’ve identified – they can look at you quite blankly. So we then want to come and talk to them about ideas, what might work for them, what might have worked from the past, and helping them feel encouraged to take responsibility without trying to tell them how to do their jobs. It’s quite a delicate balance.

How do you upskill hiring managers?


What I hear time and time again when I talk to people, whether they’re an agency side or in-house is that it’s hard to find great people, that doesn’t change. Regardless of the economic climate, the very best people are hard to find. You can’t expect to find them by a few LinkedIn searches and a bunch of InMails, and you definitely can’t find them running a couple of ads in Seek. You have to be able to really get under people’s skin. You have to find out what makes them tick, and work out where they’re best placed and how you can find a match with what your organisation needs. You can’t do that over some emails. People don’t share as much as they would over emails.
To hide behind your computer is a really dangerous way to see the world from, and what we know works is contact – human contact. It’s a hard thing for recruiters to do, to start getting out there, talking to people, having conversations, and engaging with the market, when we’re used to being order takers. It’s a paradigm shift but the results are huge, and if you can be confident enough to develop some really good relationships in the market, develop your trusted sources, and be able to use those people to tell you what’s going on then your recruitment process changes. You’re not just running Boolean searches and doing keyword matching and sending one hundred InMails, you can actually know who are the top talent in the market, you know who the really good performers are, and you know what matters to them. So, when the right opportunity comes you have a relationship with them, and you can engage them in a way that you could never do if you were just running them off a computer screen.

 Why it’s so hard for recruiters to pick up the phone


I think its a few things. I think there is a generational issue with newer recruiters or younger recruiters feeling uncomfortable with using the phone. It’s not necessarily something they have done as much in their early careers, as those of us who had to work before email. Also I think that regardless of your generation there’s a fear of the phone. People are afraid of the phone, they’re afraid of rejection, and afraid of sounding stupid. They’re afraid that they won’t get the results that they need. I think we’ve all had that where you spend your time phone sourcing, and you don’t get anywhere with it,  you can get quite cynical about it.
I think the third stream about why people don’t do it is time. Especially when you’re working on a number of roles at once, and you’ve got hiring managers or consultants demanding candidates quickly, there’s a sense of being able to reach out really quickly to lots of candidates online rather than having to phone them, play phone tag and have a conversation with them – that seems like a really big amount of time. Part of what I want to help people understand and give them some tips and tricks for doing, is how to make that process really efficient, so you’re not spending your whole day chasing people down on the phone and you can deliver results quickly.

Getting over the fear of the phone

[bctt tweet=”@amyteanz believes younger recruiters need to get over their fear of the phone”]
When you look at sales psychology, this issue of call reluctance – people have written entire PhD’s one. So there’s a lot of really great strategies you can use to both manage call reluctance and have a better phone manner, and engage better and more quickly on the phone so that you have a better experience, and when you have a good experience it build your confidence and it builds upon itself. I think that when people have some knocks on the phone early on, it can be very hard to overcome. Organisations who invest heavily in training around phone use, around phone contact, and call reluctance can get great results.
I think we can see recruitment and see approaching candidates as not being sales, when actually it is sales – it’s just like a sales call! Just as I think you shouldn’t be picking up the phone to sell your wares to people who have no interest in it, hopefully you’ve done your homework and you can be really confident that what you’re trying to sell is actually something they should be interested in.
There are some people who hate the phone, and who will never engage on the phone. I had one client once who I did a whole assignment with, with one face to face meeting, and everything else over email – he didn’t like talking and that’s fine, that was his prerogative. With people who don’t [like talking on the phone] you need to find out what are they going to put in writing, and what are they not because often the really juicy information, comes not in writing. People are not going to put in writing, the more sensitive information, or at least they shouldn’t put it in writing. So with some of those candidates, I try and meet them face to face, take them for a cup of coffee or meet them at a function – that can be very effective, but it does depend on the person. It’s like everything. This is a human game, you can’t have one rule to fit everyone.

On deciding approach to engage

I think the best way to start is emailing. Again that can be a way of saving time. So you know you have these people to talk to, and a reasonable number would at least respond to an initial email and agree to set up a time to talk. Then you might get 50-60 percent returning from that email, that’s about what our record suggest. Then there are some who you’ll need to phone. If they haven’t responded to your email in the first 24 hours, then you need to be picking up the phone and calling them. If they’re still not getting back to you a couple of voicemails later, then you may try another message for them – be it an InMail, Facebook or a message through Twitter. Sometimes a text message, depending on the person, can be a really good way to let them know that you’re desperately trying to get hold of them. Usually when someone knows you’ve tried three or four times to get hold of them, most people are curious enough to want to know who this person is.
We work almost exclusively in the upper executive group, the vast majority of what we do, and I would say it is as varied as there are people. There are people who would be Chairs, or Directors of very large companies, and they are people who will send you a quick text message or be very brief on the phone. If they’re going to talk to you it’s going to be late in the evening when they’re driving home. But, you’re just as likely to get people of that generation who are the first to suggest a cup of tea or coffee and meeting face to face. Others are great phone users. We’re all human, we’re all different, and people’s different personalities all drive them to communicate using different channels.

Persistence works


One of stories I love is a candidate I was asked by a client to approach, but I couldn’t find him, I couldn’t get hold of him. He’d disappeared off the face of the earth. I’d tried all my usual tactics. I ended up tracing this person down through the company’s register knowing that at one stage he had owned a farm in a particular place in New Zealand. I found the farm, saw that it had been sold five years ago, but to somebody who had the same last name; so I thought it could be his son. I managed to track the son down in the White Pages, using the good old phone book. Got hold of the son on a Saturday morning and had to have a conversation and said “are you such and such’s son? This may sound particularly unusual, but I need to talk to you father for this reason”. I explained I was a head hunter and what I was doing. The son laughed, tracked his dad down for me and bob’s your uncle! We were able to get him into the process.

Cut down on admin so you can invest in engagement – Time management


I do think recruiters that are highly organised and very good time managers are significantly more productive and better. So, if you think about the work of Stephen Covey and putting ‘first things first’, doing the most important and not the most urgent tasks first.
So the most important task for me is engagement with the market, with the movers and shakers in your market. Knowing those people, and recognising where you add value. So getting those things, and recognising those two bedrocks. You need to put those things up, and then develop some really good disciplines around how you do your administration – which is often not procrastinating on it – and carving out times of the day when you might have lower energy. Have those disciplined times to do your administration tasks. I think as a recruiter, to suggest that you’re too busy doing administration to talk to people would raise some pretty serious alarm bells as to whether or not you were in the right profession.

Keeping skills up-to-date


When I was back in high school I worked as a market researcher, so that was fantastic training, because when you’re calling people during dinner or Coronation Street asking to do a survey, you get very used to rejection. You also get some great training on how to be more engaging, and how to get people to talk to you on the phone. So that’s a great piece of training to start with, and I’ve never lost that.
I’m a big fan of reading and watching video clips, and making sure that becomes part of my weekly and monthly routine. That you carve out time for that, particularly for those low energy times where you might find yourself procrastinating on LinkedIn. That can be a really great chance to read something or watch a YouTube clip, and there are some great speakers and some great advisers in this space.
I think you can’t beat going to some conferences in the industry. I don’t think you need to become a professional conference attendant, but I think picking a couple each year that are a part of your professional development commitments, so that you’re constantly staying up to date. Just because you’re an IT recruiter, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking at something that’s being put out in finance or executive search. We can learn a lot from other segments of the recruitment sector.

Inspirations in recruitment sector


I really love Joanna Campbell and Glen Cathy. Bill Boorman, who is speaking at the upcoming sourcing conference, I’m really excited to see him. Stacy Donovan Zapar, who is really incredible around social sourcing.
There are some amazing operators. I was lucky enough, when I started at Sheffield to work alongside some exceptional practitioners and they’re not well known. They don’t have blogs or social media profiles, but they were amazing and were the ones who taught me disciplines. Disciplines like before you even hit your database or Google search, you make five calls to your known and trusted sources, discuss the brief, get their thoughts, start to scope the market and then you go to the computer – not the other way round.

Advice to new recruiters


The thing that makes you really valuable as a recruiter, in my opinion, is your known and trusted sources. The people in your sector who you know are well-connected, well-networked, and they know that they can trust you with information. Building a group of ideally 20 in your specific sector, building those sources over time, and nurturing them, and really wrapping the in love. That’s what will, long term, add huge value.

On her secret core network

Some have been clients, some have been candidates, often they’ve been both. Some of them have been people I’ve met at functions or conferences, and they are my inner circle. They are the first people I call when I have a search on, that I can chew the fat with. They’ve been amazing at referring work,  and referring candidates to me, and they’re people I know I can trust to give me the inside running in a particular company or a particular market, and also who are there to give me advice when I need it. They’re hugely varied, but hugely valuable.

How to start building your network


The first thing is to think about who you know. There might be people in your company who would be more than willing to sit down and share some advice, and introduce you to some people. It could even be your company accountant, who might be able to get you a connection into the Institute of Chartered Accountants, or your father’s best friend, who knows somebody who knows somebody.
So be open minded and think about who you know personally or professionally. It’s not going to them and saying “hey I need a favour”, or “who do you know?”. I find the most effective way to say “look, I really need to you help me. I need your advice”, and respecting their advice then having good manners by following up. Send them thank you notes, let them know who was appointed to the role once it’s public.
People want to help as a general rule, but you do have to be creative in thinking about where you can get that information. I’d also say that candidates are some of your best allies. Candidates come to us and they’re quite vulnerable. They’re wanting a new role and job search is never much fun. If you can provide exceptional service to candidates then they can become professional friends for life, and can very quickly become part of your key network. So, recognising that people want to meet with you as a recruiter and actually seeing the value in that.

On sourcing being art meets science


There is the perception sometimes that it [sourcing] can be a bit of a science. I talk to people about this idea of the golden 72. What it means is that if you want to get a short list of three, you probably need a long list of six. If you’re going to get approximately one in 10 of the candidates you engage with, actually applying for the role and going through the process, you need to have about 60 candidates. We know that a good recruiter can usually get about eight out of 10 of the candidates they try and contact with to engage with them. That gets you to 72 candidates that you need to identify and talk to per role.
To me that’s a fairly scientific approach, surely a mathematical or statistical approach. But actually the art is finding those 72, and then actually getting the 60 to engage, and the art of managing that process so that everyone you talk to hopeful turns into someone who likes, knows and trust you. That creates this positive cycle for your future as a recruiter.

On loving what she does


I honestly do, and I know that sounds trite, but I get to meet some of the most amazing people. It’s not unheard of for me to cry in an interview with the stories people tell me, or having big hugs in the lift lobby, because these people are hugely successful at what they do, but they’re humble and they’re passionate, and they’re a joy to talk to. I feel so privileged to just be able to sit in a room with them

Join Amy along with other leading sourcers and social recruiters including Shannon Pritchett , Chris Hoyt, Bill Boorman, Martin Warren at Sourcing Social Talent #SST15 in Auckland in November. Register for the event now.


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2 Responses to “Recruiters, it's Time to Pick up the Phone”

  1. Nicole Cain

    Amy Tea speaks my language! Great, practical tips on sourcing, building trusted networks and the power of engaging through conversation. Love the Soundcloud clips.

  2. Nicole Cain

    Amy Tea speaks my language! Great, practical tips on sourcing, building trusted networks and the power of engaging through conversation. Love the Soundcloud clips.


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